James Johnson Introduced Himself To Timberwolves' Fans In A Loud Way
F | 6’7, 240 lbs
Stats in 2019-20: 32 games, 1 start, 19.3 MPG, 8.4 MPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1 BPG, 47.9 FG%, 36.3 3P%
When the Timberwolves acquired James Johnson in exchange for Gorgui Dieng at the trade deadline, you might have thought the team simply traded a big for another big.
If you’re a Timberwolves fan, there’s a decent chance you haven’t watched a lot of Johnson throughout his 11-year career considering Johnson has played the majority of that time in the Eastern Conference.
Johnson isn’t your average big. As far as height is concerned, he might be considered a smaller power forward, but his strength allows him to guard that position. He also has the athleticism to guard players on the perimeter as well.
It was clear Gersson Rosas wanted a versatile player who could keep up in Minnesota’s fast-pace system. That's not a knock on Dieng at all, but Johnson just fits this team better. Johnson is very much a small ball forward.
While Dieng as a player was solid for the Timberwolves on the court and exceptional off the court, Johnson is a better fit under Ryan Saunders’ system offensively and gives him more options defensively.
Offensively, Johnson has developed into a solid 3-point shooter which is almost a requirement for power forwards in today's NBA. Last season, he shot 36.3% from the 3-point line, easily the best mark of his career. There were also times in his 14 games with the Timberwolves in which the offense ran through him.
At 33, Johnson is seven years older than the next oldest player on the team (Jake Layman is 26). Immediately, Johnson became a leader for a completely overhauled team and a well-respected voice in the locker room.
Johnson has played with six different teams and knows a thing or two about meshing personalities, something every successful team must do in the locker room. What will Johnson’s role be in 2020-21 for the Wolves?
He’ll surely bring some leadership and toughness to a group that will still be relatively new to each other. He’s also a spot-start forward who gives the team versatility.
At his age, Johnson is closer to the end than the beginning, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a big contributor for the Timberwolves next season and hopefully help them to a playoff berth.